After the final of the Russian Cup in cross-country skiing in Kirovsk, not all athletes went on a well-deserved rest. Some chose to stay in the Murmansk region to compete for another set of awards of the national championship: women had to run 50 kilometers in freestyle, men - 70.
The first to start traditionally were the fair sex. In Apatity, 70 girls went to the track. Including the leaders of the current season: Natalia Nepryaeva, Ekaterina Smirnova, Anastasia Prokofieva. The only thing missing was the Olympic champions Veronika Stepanova and Yulia Stupak, but even without them the race promised to be interesting.
For the first half of the marathon, the skiers walked in a large peloton, which slowly thinned out. At the cut-off of 25 kilometers, there are already 18 athletes left in the group of leaders. The real fight began when the girls drove into the pits and changed skis. Nepryaeva decided not to tempt fate and immediately turned on the maximum speed. The rivals, it seems, did not expect such agility from Natalia, after all, there was still almost half of the distance ahead, and did not support the breakthrough. As a result, at the cut-off of 35 km, the advantage of the Olympic champion over the second Smirnova was 30 seconds, and after another two kilometers - almost 50.
The pursuers no longer had a chance to catch up with the fugitive, the fate of the gold medal was decided. However, serious showdowns at the finish line between the rest of the girls also did not work out. They found out everything in the last kilometer. Maya Yakunina created a small gap from Evgenia Krupitskaya in advance and guaranteed herself silver. And the representative of St. Petersburg had a small but comfortable gap of two seconds from Daria Rogozin.
Alas, according to the head of the FLGR Elena Vyalbe, the lack of serious competition for Nepryaeva is the main problem of starts within the country.
"For two and a half years, there has not been the slightest complaint about Natasha. She is the only leader. Somewhere Veronika (Stepanova - RT) could help her, somewhere she could help Veronica, but before that you still need to mature. Nepryaeva hears Yuri Borodavko very well and periodically gives her best in a way that may not be required for the result. He is trying to enter the "I can't" mode, when returning to the international arena, this will be one of the key factors. She doesn't take care of herself in racing. In any case, in most races," Vyalbe explained in an interview with Match TV.
67 athletes came to the men's marathon in Monchegorsk. The clear favorite of the race in the absence of Alexander Bolshunov and a number of other skiers of the national team was Sergey Ustyugov, who had already won this year's 50 km race. This time, however, the distance was even longer. Therefore, it is quite logical that the Olympic champion was not eager to go forward from the first meters, preferring to sit quietly behind the backs of competitors.
The main load was taken over by Alexei Shemyakin, who dragged a group of leaders for most of the first half of the distance. The most interesting, like the girls, began after the change of skis, when the athletes had already covered 40 kilometers.
Ustyugov picked up the pace, and only Dmitry Kondrashov managed to support him. At the next time cut-off, the duo already had an advantage over the others in 10 seconds and continued to increase it. However, this was due, among other things, to the fact that a group of pursuers of 14 people preferred to focus on the fight for bronze.
As for the gold, Ustyugov easily got rid of his opponent 900 meters before the finish line. Kondrashov, exhausted by his opponent, could not turn on again. Sergey triumphantly finished the race.
"I feel fine, much better than after 50 kilometers. The guys set the tone in the race today - first Shemyakin, then Bagrashov joined. I thought that I wouldn't even get into the top ten, because the last lap was on wooden legs. When I practiced the final ascent, I understood: on the descent I can safely fall down. In general, I am satisfied, I won the 70 km for the first time. I ticked the box," Ustyugov said in an interview with Match TV.
A stubborn struggle unfolded for the bronze medal in the marathon, which was unexpectedly won by Sergey Volkov. After changing skis, the athlete lagged behind the group of pursuers, but found the strength to catch up with his rivals, and then also accelerate at the finish line.
Interestingly, according to the results of the Russian Championship, Ustyugov and Bolshunov had an equal number of gold medals - three each. And Nepryaeva shared the leadership with Smirnova: the girls have three awards of the highest standard.